Do kids have all the answers?

For the past few weeks, around 30 middle-school Punahou students spent eight-hour days brainstorming and proposing three entrepreneurial ideas about how IHS can use $25,000 donated by the new downtown Walmart to address homelessness in the Chinatown area. The goal of the innovative, hands-on summer course was for the students to find ways to turn the money into something ongoing and self-sustaining, rather than quickly exhausted on food or clothing,

Inspired by the rooftop aquaponics garden at IHS, the students incorporated this resource into their business plans.  The majority of their days were spent in Manifest Café in Chinatown. They made calls, met with design firms, talked to restaurant owners, and practiced their business presentations. Given only eight days to prepare their final proposals (keep in mind that this is just the start of their project) to IHS and a small audience, the groups seemed confident despite the pressure. The concept of young students taking on such a big project in such a small time may seem daunting, but sometimes, kids say the darndest—and most innovative—things.


Group 1 – “Aqua”

Rent out a restaurant space, with the majority of produce coming from an aquaponics garden set up inside. The aquaponics system would also serve as decoration in the form of wall plants and an aquarium for Tilapia and shrimp. Homeless persons from IHS would be employed at the restaurant.

Group 2 – “Greens on Wheels”

Provide unused bicycles hanging on the ceiling in Manifest Café to employ homeless persons from IHS who would transport produce from IHS’s rooftop aquaponics garden to local restaurants in Chinatown. With income, expand the gardens to keep up with demand, and provide smaller packages of produce to local families.

Group 3 – “Alohana”

Make solar-powered aquaponics garden pop-ups, maintained by homeless persons from IHS, available to Chinatown restaurants. If the restaurant does not want the garden on their property, set it up on the roof of IHS. Sell the produce to Walmart and the Fort Street Mall market.

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